A FOOTBALL club that has been in existence for more than a century could be thrown out of its league if it can not raise the cash for a new spectator stand by April.

Stockbridge FC plays in Division 1 of the Wessex League, but, under new rules from the Football Association, it must build a small stand to house spectators, or suffer relegation to a lower division.

Now, it faces a race against time to drum up the £10,000 needed for the 50-person structure to maintain its status.

In theory, the stand has to be in place by April 1, but the club hopes having the cash in place by then will be enough.

The club, which formed in 1894, has raised around £5,000 so far and already has planning permission, but chiefs are calling on the community to pull together to make sure the team keeps its place in its current league.

It has been at its current ground, off the High Street, since 1978 and the club has gone from strength to strength ever since, gaining a number of hard-fought promotions to gravitate to its current league level.

President, Dave Webb, said £10,000 was a large sum of money for a small club to raise in addition to meeting its "considerable" everyday running costs.

He said: "We have put a lot of work in to get to this level of football, both on and off the field. We had to raise about £45,000 for ground improvements such as floodlights, fixed barriers, hard standing around the pitch, a covered area and changing room improvements.

"After all the effort by many people to get us to this stage, if we were now removed from the Wessex League I believe the effect on the club would be devastating.

"Can we raise the money in time? I don't know, but we shall do everything we can to get there."

Mr Webb said the last resort would be to take out a loan, but he hoped that would not have to happen.

The club has a reputation for families being involved for generations and Mr Webb said it was the only organisation providing competitive sport for the Stockbridge area.

A letter sent to residents added: "If this money is not raised by April 1, 2008, the club will be relegated to a lower league and all the hard won achievements of the past 30 years will be lost.

"This is not a viable alternative. Your generous support is needed now to ensure that future generations continue to have the opportunity to enjoy playing football at a competitive level."

That support can be given in two ways. Financial donations should be sent to Mavis Savage, 24 Roman Road, Stockbridge, SO20 6HA, by Monday, March 31. Cheques should be made payable to Stockbridge FC Stand Appeal.

In addition, a series of fundraising events are being organised by the club, which will be advertised around Stockbridge.

Visit www.stockbridgefc.co.uk to keep up to date.